THE FIGHT WAS THE THING
The most significant news of the week may have been made in the Orient, but for many Americans the prime subject of conversation was another international matter docketed for debate at the Polo Grounds. Would Ingemar Johansson's right hand destroy Floyd Patterson all over again? Did Patterson really have a new defense doped out? And where could a fellow lay a bet?
These matters were of equal moment to bookies on Broadway and little old ladies in Lonelyville, for it has become a truism that heavyweight championship fights cut across all lines of interest and generate more attention and remembrances of things past than any single event in the world of sport. Who could ever forget the Dempsey-Tunney fight in 1927? And who, by the same token, remembers who won the national singles—or even the World Series—that year?
As it always does, conjecture of the wildest sort filled the air as fight time neared. Certain experts professed to detect the slight odor of "fix," an attention-getting conclusion based on the fact that odds hung at 6 to 5 and pick 'em till shortly before the fight. These experts felt Johansson should have been the favorite at 5 to 1. Such talk conveniently ignored another fact: Johansson and Patterson are practical men, and men with personal and public records not vulnerable to blackmail. No practical man with a clean record would go in the tank in a heavyweight championship fight for anything less than a fortune and a free pass out of court.
The best bet, of course, was on TelePrompTer Corp. to win. In 230 theaters, tons of popcorn were hotted up and 700,000 seats were dusted and ready at $3 to $10 a throw. The very scheduling of the fight—on a Monday night—was a mark of the importance of the theater TV receipts. Monday night is a poor night for less violent forms of entertainment. Ergo, lower rentals for TelePrompTer and a gross of about $1.5 million if it sold only 50% of its seats.
Indeed, the talk about economics almost pre-empted the talk about the fight itself. It seemed certain that 90% of the $100 seats at the Polo Grounds would be bought on the expense account, doled out like old booze and young cigars to good customers from Atlanta and big buyers from Chicago. Thus would the fight become available, and deductible, to more big spenders than ever before.
Is there a clue to the future, even dimly seen, in all this? Well, consider: The luxury liner Carovia steams to an anchorage 15 miles off New York. Aboard are 1,000 tuxedoed and perfumed fight fans who have paid $1,000 each for a ringside seat in the plush grand salon, plus one champagne cocktail, courtesy of the promoter. Having paid 10 times more than ever before, guests naturally are 10 times as impressed as they had been at previous championship fights, and they have 10 times as much to deduct. Across the country—from the dark grottoes of The Bronx to the chalk sands of Coronado—20 million people have paid 50� apiece to see the fight on pay-TV. No city, town, village or hamlet is blacked out. The fighters come on, almost as an anticlimax. They bob, and the ship weaves, and everybody makes a buck.
Pondering the plight of the Green Bay Packers, one can only be saddened. Their stadium holds 32,125, and already they've sold 29,000 season tickets. Now they are afraid that loyal Packer fans who can't afford season tickets will be offended when they can't get into the stadium. It is a terrible problem, and one that every team in the National Football League wishes it had.
BOOTS AND SOX
The return to the big leagues of Mike (Pinky) Higgins as Red Sox manager also means the return of his two delightful daughters, Elizabeth (Boots), 17, and Dianne, 19, both of whom specialize in succinct, thumbnail descriptions of ballplayers they have known. Samples: